It may look like a supercar, but the Volkswagen XL1 which has gone on show for summer visitors to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the UK is one of the world’s most fuel-efficient production cars.
It’s fair to say that all car makers are currently challenged by what is known as ‘future mobility’, that is, the methods we will use for personal travel in the coming decades.
The move is towards better efficiency, lower emissions and recyclability. These parameters bring constraints, and some of the concepts that appear are simply an indication of the direction in which things are moving – they will never make it to the production line.
Some, however, have been produced and will doubtless continue to evolve as new technology and new materials are discovered.
Volkswagen’s XL1 represents the cutting-edge of low emissions, this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing which can achieve more than 300 miles per gallon (0.9 l/100km) and is, say the makers, “one of the most environmentally friendly cars on the road”.
The 2015 model has joined the famous Hampshire museum’s Driving Change display this summer, which tells the story of motoring innovations and technology.
Its futuristic aerodynamic bodywork, with sports car wing doors, may look more suited to a science fiction film but the XL1 uses ingenious plug-in hybrid technology beneath its skin, consisting of a two-cylinder TDI engine (35 kW/48 PS), E-motor (20 kW/27 PS), a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DSG) driving the rear wheels and a lithium-ion battery.
As a Super Efficiency Vehicle (SEV), it can be driven purely on electric power for up to 50 kilometres on one charge, staying in electric mode until greater power is required, or until the lithium ion battery charge drops below 14%. Then both motors start to work together to achieve as many as 340 miles (or 500 km) on one gallon of diesel, with low emissions.
The battery can be charged from a conventional household electric outlet and battery regeneration is also employed to recover energy while slowing down and to store as much of it as possible in the battery for re-use. In this case, the electric motor acts as an electric generator.
The sleek bodywork isn’t just for show. Constructed from carbon fibre reinforced polymer, the body shell and panels are strong – yet weigh just a fraction of steel equivalents.
With polycarbonate windows, the XL1 tips the scales at just 795kg, which is less than a modern supermini. When the full power of the hybrid system is engaged, the car accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 12.7 seconds, and its top speed is 160 km/h (electronically limited).
Yet these numbers alone do not tell the whole story: because of its light weight, the drive system has an easy job of propelling the car. When full power is needed, the electric motor, which can deliver 140 Newton metres of torque from a standstill, works as a booster to support the TDI engine (120 Newton metres of torque).
Together, the TDI and E-motor deliver a maximum torque of 140 Newton metres and 51 kW in boosting mode.
Billed by Volkswagen as ‘a car of the future, built today’, the XL1 was made in small numbers as the third generation of the German manufacturer’s fuel-efficient 1-litre car project, exploring efficient and environmentally friendly motoring.
Developers of the latest iteration were able to design a body layout that offers greater everyday practicality than the two previous prototypes: the XL1 now incorporates slightly offset side-by-side seating, nearly as in conventional vehicles, rather than the tandem arrangement seen in both the first 1-litre car presented in 2002 and the L1 presented in 2009, for optimal aerodynamics. In the new XL1, wing doors make it easier to enter and exit the car.
The new exhibit can be seen in the National Motor Museum as part of a visit to the Beaulieu attraction, which includes On Screen Cars, World of Top Gear, the ancestral Montagu family home of Palace House, 13th century Beaulieu Abbey and the grounds and gardens.
For tickets or information see www.beaulieu.co.uk